ACLU Helps Put Maine on the Horns of a Pagan Dilemma
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published December 21, 2016 by American Thinker.
A Maine man credits the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for his winning a battle with the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles over his insistence that his ID card photo include goat horns on his head.
Phelan Moonsong, 59, of Millinocket, a practicing pagan minister, had wanted a new photo on his state-issued ID card to go with his recent name change.
“As a practicing Pagan minister and a priest of Pan, I’ve come to feel very attached to the horns, and they’ve become a part of me and part of my spirituality,” Moonsong told the Washington Post. “The horns are part of my religious attire.”
When the BMV balked, Mr. Moonsong, who also wears furry “goat legs” and hooves, turned to the ACLU, which often makes news at this time of year for legal campaigns to wipe out vestiges of Christian heritage such as nativity scenes from public places.
Last week, an ACLU threat forced city officials in Knightstown, Indiana to take a cross down from atop a Christmas tree in a public park.
As for Mr. Moonsong, “After several months of waiting to hear from the state’s motor vehicle office following his initial visit, he says he informed the bureau that he was in touch with the ACLU,” the Post reported on Saturday. “His ID arrived in the mail days later, he says.”
Mr. Moonsong obtained the goat horns at a pagan men’s gathering in 2009 from a friend whose goat had died.
“So he took the horns home, drilled small holes in each one and attached them to his forehead using stretchy, 50-pound fishing line that he wrapped around his head like an invisible skull cap,” the Post reported. “His life was never the same.”
During his first visit to the BMV, he did not mention the religious aspect, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s office, but later insisted that the horns were his “spiritual antenna” and sent the office some materials about pagan religious rituals.
Since the horns did not obscure his face, Mr. Moonsong’s situation differs from other headgear cases, such as a Florida Muslim woman’s claim in 2003 to have the right to a driver’s license photo taken with a veil over her face, leaving only eye slits.
The ACLU took up Sultaana Freeman’s case, saying the state was violating her right to religious freedom.
The Florida circuit court judge, however, ruled that Ms. Freeman had to remove the veil for the photo, saying the state “has a compelling interest in protecting the public from criminal activities and security threats,” and that photo IDs are “essential to promote that interest.”
Mr. Moonsong, on the other hand, appears to be thrilled with his win and new ID, which the Post said will allow him to board an airplane to California, “where some of the best Pagan festivals are found.”